December 7, 2007

Memories from UNC Chapel Hill

Will Hearn sent this in to be posted:

It was very odd for me to type in Debra McClinton into Google yesterday out of the blue because I have not seen or thought much about Debra (Debbie) since graduating from UNC Chapel Hill in 1987. I think she graduated in 1991, but I am really not sure anymore. I was a Senior and knew Debbie for that year as fairly casual friends, but I really liked her and thoughts of her have stayed with me over the years - I never really knew what happened in her life in any way until yesterday. I was looking through some old photos from my days in Chapel Hill over Thanksgiving and there was Debbie sitting on my front porch - and I know now how life turned out for her - she led a life full of creativity and adventure surrounded by people she loved and who loved her. Not bad. You can imagine my reaction to learn that my typing in her name corresponded with 2 weeks after her passing.

We actually met because her bicycle broke down near my house and I stopped to help her - who wouldn't. I still see her standing there looking at that chain, hair across her face, looking for help. We walked her bike back to my house and she stood back as I went to work on it - my sense was she was at a complete loss and grateful to have the help, but a bit reserved and wary of this guy who would just take her to his house to fix her bike (I was a pretty serious racer at the time). I don't think she had been on campus for more than a few weeks (I know it), because I lived in a rough part of town and she had no business being there. From the first moment I met her, I was completely infatuated with her and there began a friendship that was sustained for the entire year.

We would get together about once a month just to check in mostly to go see old films at the student union or go see bands (unfortunately she was underage). We were in very different stages of life at UNC - she in a dorm and I about to graduate, but I just found a connection with her that felt good and because of the timing incomplete. I left Carolina at the end of the year and, having lined up a job in Germany, was completely gone off in a new direction - the last letter I had from Debbie was I think that summer and it was always nice to hear from her. I have looked at the slideshow on the memorial site and I can still see my friend Debbie in those pictures, especially the photo of her kissing her daughter. It is obvious to me today, that Debbie went on to do what she was meant to do as a creative individual in a field that suited her.

Who can say why we lose touch with people we encounter. There were many mentions of Debbie's tardy nature and I do recall waiting once outside a theater for her, but that was not a lasting impression for me. The more enduring impression I have was of a an 18 year-old who wanted to get out and see the world - and explore the world. I had spent my Sophomore year studying in Germany and this was all she wanted to know about - I am glad she fulfilled this wish in her life.

There is one other memory I have of Debbie that I want to share. At the end of my Senior year at UNC, in fact on graduation day, my family came to spend the day - we had a reception at my place, just immediate family and no more than a few friends. It was a very casual affair and I don't even think I sent out invitations (these were the pictures I looked at). I remember distinctly Debbie coming in (actually very much on time), beautiful as always. She met my entire family and we laughed and talked about our friendship - about the bike repair and the fun we had had over the year. It turned out that another friend knew her from a computer lab (I sent him this link yesterday and he still remembers her fondly). It was so nice of her to come by and it reinforces to me today that at least at that time, our friendship was as real to her as it was to me. To this day I think back on Debbie - I guess this is the effect she had on many of your bloggers as well. Good to know that she had such great friends because she was worthy of them.

You can imagine my surprise in typing in Debbie's name in Google and this... To those who mourn, I wish you peace and renewed joy in the future. I also just wanted her friends and family to know that her influence and friendships remain from UNC days as well.

All the best,


1 comment:

B A R T said...

As someone who has only known Debra in the Bay Area, I love hearing these stories about her life pre-San Francisco—and I'd love, love to see more photos of the young Debra McClinton in North Carolina.